By Cady Noland (published in BALCON No. 4, 1989.)
There is a meta-game available for use in the United Sates. The rules of the game, or even that there is a game at all, are hidden to some. The uninitiated are called naive or provincial, liars or suckers. To those unabused by an awareness of back door maneuvering, a whole world of deceit remains opaque. Those in the dark are still ripe for exploitation.
The game is a synthesis of tactics, played out in the social arena, in which advantage can be gained in an oblique way. Demonstrations of the game are now available on TV shows like DYNASTY and DALLAS. Cathesis is afforded minorities through Joan Collins or Diahann Carroll in DYNASTY, although with ceremonial structures clearly locking them outside the true hypno-whirlpool of the game. John Forsythe exists for the whole audience as a fossil bearing the contrivancs of the game. Gone is the ritualized cautionary debacle featured during the finale in earlier fictive explorations of the game, such as in the 1966 film, THE OSCAR.
Tabloids already use many of the game's tactics by foreshortening and cropping celebrities, blowing them up, and, in the case of NATIONAL ENQUIRER television commercials, reducing them to photo-objects and then animating these objects. These papers regularly publish little bits of the rules gleaned from popular psychology books about how to manipulate people. These books have their genesis in the old warhorse, HOW TO WIN FRIENDS AND INFLUENCE PEOPLE, by Dale Carnegie, whose on primogenitor is THE PRINCE by Machiavelli. According to Ethel Spector Person, the psychopath shares the societal sanctioned characteristics of the entrepreneurial male. Their maneuvers are differentiated mostly by decibel, the acts of the psychopath being the "louder".
The game is a machine composed of interconnecte mechanistic devices. These devices facilitate bad faith interaction... A con or snow job is the site at which X preys upon the hopes, fears, and anxieties of Y for ulterior motives and/or personal gain. The machinations which vehiculate this manipulation can have wide effect—ranging from the aftermath of minor mischief to serial or mass deaths. These machinations exists a priori of X or Y as an indifferent set of tools and could conceivably be picked up by anyone and used against anyone else. As befits the extreme artificiality of these devices, there is no group who is naturally a victim of this abuse. These are mechanistic devices and have nothing to do with nature. There are those who feel that their kind or type is immune to being worked over by X. Some of the most shocking moments in real life and in fiction occur when they are disabused of this synthetic notion. The mayor theme in film noir is that there is never a respite, in this world, from the game and the exploitations. The quintessential narrative through-line in film noir is where a cynical guy, Y, who is wise, gets taken one more time.
The game is a hero system where the organism tries to blow itself up at the expense of a real or imagined antagonist. The clinical psychopath embodies a gross internalization of the game at its most spartan, unpolluted by an internalized other with whom to negotiate.
The purpose of the enlargement or aggrandizement of the organism is to stave off anxiety about finity and death. This expansion, virtual or literal, may entail stockpiling of real supplies or the gathering of narcissistinc supplies implying a triumph over one smallness and the inevitability of one's own insignificant decay, as Ernest Becker argues in his books, THE DENIAL OF DEATH and THE STRUCTURE OF EVIL.
Although the psychopath displays a chilling fondness for the game, and would always prefer to operate via the game, he stops short of involving himself in the honorific courting of death except by proxy. It is in this way that his internalization of the game diverges from its rules. He is simply not involved in fair play of any sort. Those who would follow the official hero game to the letter, like Ernest Hemingway, will often make sure to have an action death, in order to purchase a symbolic piece of immortality in the process. The psychopath being the machine that it is, cannot imagine that it will cease to function, but in keeping with its obsession with control, it will shortcircuit itself at the last moment if it is unquestionably about to be "offed". This machine itself does not consider this a matter of heroics; it is done as a last petty gesture.